10 Sports Films You’ll Enjoy Even if You Hate Sports

I think everyone has been in a similar situation; your enthusiastic best friend/colleague/sibling is ranting and raving about this amazing film that “you need to watch. Right now!” You have no intention of watching it, especially given that the last recommendation they gave you was rubbish. What is the film’s main feature? Figure skating?

So you put it off and on and off until you finally give up and give it another go. And, begrudgingly, that’s right: Margot Robbie smashes it out of the park with a fantastic performance of a disgraced figure skater.

My knowledge of figure skating could be written on the back of a stamp…five times, with enough room to include the script of I, Tonya. But that got me thinking, it can’t just be me that has avoided a great film due to the sport it depicts. I present, in no particular order; 10 Sports Films You’ll Enjoy Even If You Hate Sports.

Disclaimer: I have no doubt I have left out some classics and someone’s favorite film, but I tried to get a nice, wide range of sports and movie genres at the expense of some obvious choices (Sorry, Rocky).

10 Slap Shot

I know very little about hockey. Figure skating is a sport I know a lot more about than hockey, provided they have a big stick. But I have been made to watch Paul Newman’s films for as long as I can remember, and I have enjoyed them for as long as I can remember. It was therefore no surprise that he gave a charming and funny performance in this movie.

The plot of Slap Shot(1977) focuses on a declining town with its failing ice hockey club, who in desperate need of ticket sales and popularity resort to violence on ice. The Hanson brothers, who are notorious for their brutality and ability to crash, batter, and bludgeon most of their opponents, deserve special mention. IMDb trivia states this was one of Newman’s favorite films, and it comes across on screen. He must have had a great time filming it. Many parts, especially those that involved the Hanson brothers, were not scripted and improvised at the set.[1]

9 Million Dollar Baby

Okay, most of these films I’ve seen at least twice. This film is different. This is not a reflection of the film’s quality. It is a great movie, well-worth the Oscar, and proof that Hilary Swank can perform against screen veterans like Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood.

In the 2004 film Maggie Fitzgerald, a former boxing trainer reluctantly agrees that she will train Maggie Fitzgerald, a female boxer. Maggie overcomes all odds and shows determination as she rises to the challenge.

That is where I’m going to stop talking about the story as I remember the reason I have never watched it again. The injustice of what happened will be permanently etched in the minds of those who have seen it. It is heartbreaking. Seriously, no spoilers, but keep some tissues close by and maybe treat yourself to some ice cream—lots and lots of ice cream.[2]

8 The Wrestler

Avoid this film if you want the glamour and glitz of WWE (WWF if you’re older). The Wrestler(2008) follows an ailing wrestler as he struggles to survive in the final stages of his career. But not in stretched limousines or flown in by helicopter. Instead, he travels with all of his possessions packed to the limit in a car that is much like him. It’s a gritty tale about a man too old to adjust to the outside world, struggling to find work and alienated families.

There is a surprisingly convincing performance from Mickey Rourke as Randy the Ram, and many people have drawn parallels with his and his character’s careers. For me, the real star of the show is Marisa Tomei. Her self-awareness and worldliness make this a great show.[3]

7 The Blind Side

I was going to pick Any Given SundayYou will need to have at least a passing interest for American football in order to make my American Football choice. With The Blind SideYou just need to be human in 2009

This touching true story by Michael Oher is filled with laughter and tears. There is a bit about American football in there, too, I guess…if that’s your thing. While I have no doubts that the story was embellished and some people and events may have been romanticized by me, I still think it’s wonderful.[4]

6 Seabiscuit

My interaction with horse racing occurs once a year at Grand National, like many people in the UK. Sorry to everyone at the bookies, but I will be the one holding the line and trying to fill out a slip. I don’t know what could keep me interested in a film that lasts two hours about horse racing.

Well, I’ll give you three reasons: Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, and Chris Cooper. Seabiscuit(2003) delivers flawless performances and a story that covers redemption, loss, and overcoming adversity. These two hours and twenty minutes fly by because of this. Side note: This is my favorite Chris Cooper performance, second only to his July Johnson. Lonesome Dove.[5]

5 Purely Belter

One of the two films about football that made this list. It was also the case with I, TonyaAnother example of me being proven wrong.

A friend who supports Sunderland coerced me into watching this 2000 film one night. It was hard to believe that a Sunderland fan would be interested in watching the struggle of two young children to buy tickets to Newcastle United. Not long into the film, it becomes clear; genuinely hilarious, affectionately made, and good acting from the child stars make a feel-good film you won’t be sorry you watched.[6]

4 The Boxer

This has less to do the boxing and more with the Troubles. Daniel Day-Lewis is an ex-prisoner who has been released and now runs a nonsectarian boxing club in a divided Belfast.

Rewatching this 1997 film brought back memories of the incredible cast of Ken Stott and Brian Cox. Emily Watson has proven her ability to play challenging roles throughout her career.

Barry McGuigan, boxing’s greatest fighter, was present on set and trained Daniel Day-Lewis so that he could look and move like an actual fighter. Day-Lewis was so committed to the training that McGuigan said he could fight professionally.[7]

3 Eric is what you are looking for

I love this movie and I don’t know why more people haven’t seen it. This film will appeal to all sports and any locality around the world. People might be put off by the main character being an obsessive Manchester United fan; however, this film has very little to do with football and more to do with love, friendship, poverty, class, loneliness, family, mental health… Trust me, there is no way this can be pigeonholed as just a sports film.

The 2009 film was set in Manchester’s poor community and critics compared it to other northern dramas like Brassed Off The Full Monty. However, Eric is what you are looking for is in a league of its own (I know, I’m sorry) and isn’t scared to touch on the subject matter the previous films mentioned shied away from.

Steve Evets doesn’t put one foot wrong in the lead role and delivers some cracking lines: “I’m up to here with your philosophy. I’m still getting over the f**king seagulls!”[8]

2 The Big Lebowski

I know, I know, tenuous at best to call this a sports film, but it does feature bowling and a bowling ball features on the cover… So, I guess we’re okay? This is a full disclosure. I haven’t seen the film for years and I only once saw it. I hope it is as good or better than I remembered. If you haven’t, I recommend you go and see it. Eric is what you are looking for instead.

It’s kind of hard to explain the plot, but in short, a guy named Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski (Jeff Bridges’s second showing on the list) is mistaken for a millionaire who wants to get reimbursed for a rug that got ruined at the same time as retrieving his namesake’s missing wife. One reviewer explains the story. The Big Lebowski (1198) is a “stoner crime comedy about bowling, Vietnam, and the critical importance of having that one interior-design element that ties the whole room together.”

It is as bizarre and strange as it sounds. One thing I do recall is John Turturro, a foul-mouthed character, stealing scenes at the bowling alley.[9]

1 The Descent

Okay, okay. And you thought we were stretching the boundaries with the last one. I wanted to add another sport to the list, and I also wanted to add a horror movie. We have covered many sports and genres. Now, let’s all agree caving/spelunking/potholing is a sport for this list. Or at least, sport-adjacent!

A group of friends decides that they will go caving in this 2006 film. Things do not go according to plan. Betrayals and accidents occur, and the group realizes that they are not the only ones in the darkness.

I don’t know about you, but I am not a fan of being stuck in small spaces, in the dark, with potentially deadly creatures. Goodness knows why I watched this in the first place, and I’m not too sure why it is on this list. I like a good scare every once in a while, and this definitely fits the bill.

I believe that the endings of the U.S. and UK versions are different. However, I don’t want to rush this. Please add the difference in comments.[10]

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